Your preschooler wants dinner now, so instead of listening to whining for the next hour, you give him a snack. It's time for bed, but she complains she's not tired, so you allow 10 more minutes of TV. You're at the store and to calm Miss Fussy Pants, you buy her a treat to munch on while you shop, rather than wait until the end.
It's true that kids often have difficulty with self-control and delayed gratification, but too often parents and caregivers are giving in when they really should be setting boundaries. If kids know they can complain and get what they want faster, why would they ever stop?
The famous Stanford University marshmallow test proves that the ability to delay gratification can have benefits throughout life. In the study, kids could choose between one small reward immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period (one versus two marshmallows). In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes.
You probably agree with the research, but most parents know that teaching young kids self-control is often easier said than done. That's why this teacher-approved list of activities will turn into your favorite go-to. By practicing self-control in an enjoyable manner, kids will be better prepared when difficult situations arise in real life.
- Teach kids important money management skills and self-control by helping them save for something big that they really want, such as a special toy.
- Play red light, green light or freeze tag in the yard.
- Rather than give kids snacks, ask them to wait until meal time. If they eat well they get to choose dessert.
- Do yoga with your kids and practice breathing and holding poses together.
- Have a contest to see who can be silent the longest. The winner gets to choose the next activity.
- Have daily share time where everyone takes a turn to tell their favorite part of the day.
- Play telephone where one person selects a phrase and whispers it to another person and so forth down the line until the last person says what they heard. This requires concentration, and the results are hilarious.
- Encourage kids to play alone. Kids who can occupy themselves learn self-control and focus.
- Talk about emotions. When kids are angry or acting out, chat about what they are feeling and why. Then direct the conversation to how you can solve the problem together.
- Resist the urge to finish kids' projects and homework. Praise effort over results.
- Make checklists of age-appropriate responsibilities. Kids love checking off each item, and it provides a sense of accomplishment.
- Bake together. Being patient and following each step helps kids learn self-control. Plus they must work hard before having the sweet treat as a reward.
- Encourage kids to share. Set a timer and each child gets to play for a specific period.
Finally, remember that kids learn from their parents. When you are delaying a reward for yourself, point it out to your child. This helps them realize that self-control isn't something just for them to experience, but for the entire family.
Kids often have difficulty with self-control and delayed gratification. Use these 13 simple ways to practice so kids can be prepared for this difficult situation.